Manhattan Construction Builds Reputation

Quapaw Chief John Berrey just watched the calendar.
The Quapaw Tribe of Oklahoma opened its Downstream Casino Resort earlier this summer and in record time. Tulsa-based Manhattan Construction Co. contracted with the tribe’s Downstream Development Authority to build the $301 million resort. Manhattan finished the project in 10 months and 26 days and $16 million under budget.
“It is unheard of in this business, opening ahead of schedule and millions of dollars under budget,” Berrey said.
John Snyder, Oklahoma Division president for Manhattan agreed.
“It was an unheard of turn-around,” he echoed.
The Quapaw Tribe realized a third of the way through the process that they were witnessing history.
“We did not sense anything until about a third of the way into it,” Berrey said. “Then, we got some momentum going and things started to capture our excitement.”
The scheduled completion was 12 months. Xavier Neira, project engineer, said time was compressed in order to finish early.
“Today everyone wants to have it done ‘now.’” he said. “Because of business reasons clients need the facility turned over as quickly as possible.”
Gaming enthusiasts from across Oklahoma, Missouri and Kansas were primed and ready for action July 5. More than 10,000 players crowded onto the gaming floor within the casino’s first hour of business. The casino sits on 145 acres of land just south of the Kansas state line and the property straddles the boundaries between Oklahoma and Missouri. A 13-story luxury hotel, set to open Nov. 1, conference center and an outdoor concert arena with seats for 7,500 completes the package.
Berrey called Manhattan “the best in the business.”
The hotel is not yet open and the Quapaws are considering adding another 400 rooms.
“They are honest and loyal to their client. They are dedicated,” Berrey said. “I know we will never look for another general contractor when we do the expansion.”
The Downstream project is another example of how for 112 years Manhattan has been setting an industry standard of building excellence.
Today, Manhattan Construction is one of the largest general building firms in the nation. The company operates from offices in Tulsa and Oklahoma City; Dallas and Houston; Washington, D.C.; Atlanta, and in South Carolina, Virginia, Florida and Mexico City. Manhattan’s portfolio includes corporate headquarters, institutional, health-care, office, hospitality and leisure, sports and entertainment, aviation, retail, and judicial facilities throughout the Southwest and East Coast.
Manhattan Construction Group expanded its Florida presence last month with its acquisition of Kraft Construction. Manhattan acquired an undefined “controlling interest” in Naples, Fla.-based Kraft. Tulsa-based Rooney Holdings owns Manhattan. Financial details were not disclosed in the transaction, although executives projected the deal would boost revenues for Manhattan and its subsidiaries to $1.5 billion.
The company’s motto, “Disciplined Procurement,” could just as easily be, “We don’t make excuses, we just make it happen,” Snyder said.
If a job has unreal expectations, or cost projections cannot be achieved, or if company executives feel they cannot deliver flawlessly on a schedule they are comfortable with, “then we will not take the job,” Snyder said.
“We only take on work that we know we have the right team to deliver on,” he said.
It says a lot about the importance of relationships to Manhattan, said Greg Shaw, project engineer.
“It is more about the people. It is the culture — the type of people we have here. It is a can-do attitude,” he said.
That “can-do” attitude has been tested. Last December’s severe ice storm hampered construction on the BOK Center and the Downstream project, Shaw said.
“And and we had the wettest spring and summer in state history,” he said.
“There was some concern with them being done by the first event,” said Bob Eggleston, project engineer.
“But, we are always worried,” Snyder said.
But asking for a delay is the easy way out, Eggleston said.
Project Engineer Bob Jack said Manhattan eschews using the weather as an excuse to miss deadlines.
“It is so easy to go to the contractor and say, ‘Listen, we’ve had all these weather problems. We need an extension.’ That is the easy way of doing things,” he said. “We just finished the Children’s hospital at Saint Francis. We went through the ice storm. We suffered with tremendous weather conditions. But, we poured that building on the day we said we would pour it — a year and a half prior to that.”
Manhattan does not win a project and then go find the people to perform it, Snyder said. Manhattan’s foundation of excellence is based on a culture grounded in dedication to constructing enduring relationships as much as lasting structures. It has taken years to develop the belief that today’s work is tomorrow’s legacy, Snyder said.
“It might ruin a weekend but you have to work,” Snyder said. “Once we commit on a date, on the quality and a price, we deliver every time.”
One project Manhattan accepted, knowing the completion date was unmovable, was the BOK Center.
The Bank of Oklahoma Center is the newly opened 19,198 seat multi-purpose arena. Designed to be the primary indoor sports and event venue in Tulsa, the center accommodates concerts, arena football, basketball and hockey. Built with $178 million in public funds plus $18 million in privately funded upgrades, it was completed in three years.
It is the largest publicly funded building Manhattan has erected, said Eggleston, who was the project engineer for the iconic arena.
The facility is another example of a forward-looking concept, a real “piece of art,” Eggleston said.
“This is the most measured project. There are no straight lines,” he said. “It is a bowl within a bowl within a bowl.”
All surfaces slope 10 percent.
“Every board is curving. Every piece of glass is a different size.”
Manhattan opened the BOK Center the first of the month. Through Tulsa Vision Builders, a joint partnership between Manhattan Construction and Flintco Inc., the $196 million arena was constructed in three years.
Manhattan is also building the impressive stadium for the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys. It is the largest project to date for the company, Snyder said.
Earlier this summer Manhattan hoisted the massive steel arches into place on the stadium, under construction in Arlington. Weighing 3,255 tons each, these impressive arch structures span nearly a quarter mile in length. With the hoisting of the beams, the stadium becomes the largest single-span roof structure in the world. Manhattan started work on the stadium in 2006. It is scheduled for completion next year.
Jobs are more complicated and more complex, said Steve Ludwig, project engineer in charge of health care.
Manhattan wrestles with the escalating cost of materials while looking for efficiencies.
And, like the Downstream project, deadlines are getting shorter, he said.
Something called the “project delivery method” has evolved to smooth out the process. It is also known as construction management.
A project delivery method is used by an owner or agency to organize and finance a building or facility from design through operations and maintenance services.
There are several types of methods. With construction management, an owner hires the construction manager to act as an agent. The construction manager solicits bids for subcontractors. It allows construction to proceed quicker while allowing the owner to share some of the risk inherent in the project with the construction manager.
“That gets owners involved earlier and keeps them involved throughout the process,” Ludwig said. “Construction management is at the forefront of the delivery method.”
An owner has one point of contact — the construction manager handles the architect and manages the work.
The method has become so prevalent, that Manhattan has not handled a “hard bid” in Oklahoma in the last four years. The “old-fashioned” design and construction delivery method, the hard bid is the traditional approach which involves the owner contracting design services from an architect who develops the design and then bids the work.
A factor in its success was the decision to expand outside Oklahoma. In the past two decades Manhattan developed a regional focus.
“We saw the potential and stepped outside Oklahoma,” Snyder said.
“It helped that we made sure the people running those offices were Oklahoma folks that had our culture ingrained in them,” he said.
The third factor in the ongoing success of Manhattan is the significant projects at places like Saint Francis and St. John Medical Center. Customers are so impressed — like Berrey and the Quapaws — they return for repeat business.
Lastly, Manhattan has made strides with Native Americans.
“We are proud of our work with Native Americans,” Snyder said. “For a long time were on the outside looking in.”
Manhattan’s break came with a project in Perkins for the Iowa Tribe.
“From there it has exploded,” Snyder said. The project took five months and eventually it lead to Manhattan handling the Downstream project for the Quapaw tribe.
In 1896 founder L.H. Rooney took a gamble with the bricklaying business. Statehood was still 11 years away and since they were located in a territory and not a state, the founders were required to travel to New York City to complete the paperwork to incorporate. No one knows for sure, but the legend is that as the clerk handling the paperwork asked for the company name, they decided to use the name of where they were standing — in the middle of Manhattan.
After statehood, Manhattan won the contract to build the first state capitol in Guthrie. Then, Manhattan won the contract to built the capitol in Oklahoma City.
During the first four decades Manhattan constructed courthouses, offices, schools and universities, industrial plants and hospitals in the growing areas of Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Texas.
During World War II, Manhattan completed more than $1 billion in military projects including bases, hangars, barracks and other mobilization projects for the U.S. Defense Department. For such achievements during World War II, Manhattan was awarded two of the coveted Army-Navy “E” awards for excellence.
Manhattan was quickly gaining recognition as a forward-thinking company that was helping to shape America.
Each generation that has followed L.H. Rooney has continued to build on a foundation of dedication to quality construction techniques, value engineering, timely delivery and attention to detail. While respectful of our past, we earn our reputation for excellence in each of the geographic and market types we serve.
The company moved to Tulsa in 1982.
Manhattan Construction Group’s subsidiaries include Manhattan Construction, M.J. Lee Construction Co., Southern Pavers Inc., Cantera Concrete Co. and Kraft Construction Co. The largest of the subsidiaries, Manhattan is now in the fourth generation of the Rooney family ownership.
Manhattan has built some of the country’s most notable structures, including the U.S. Capitol Visitor’s Center, the Bush Presidential Library and Reliant Stadium.
It all goes back to the people, Shaw said. SDLqThat positive attitude toward business and way we treat people.”

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